Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

The recent event at Virginina Tech is a difficult subject to talk about, especially considering the fact that we don't know all the details at this time. It is clear, however, that with the revelation of the shooter's Korean nationality, the ROK government has gotten involved. The Foreign Ministry has already issued a statement expressing condolences, and diplomats are on their way to Blacksburg. I was just skimming some of the Korean newspapers and most reader comments seem to express sorrow and embarassment.

I do wonder, though, if this will have any effect on how Koreans view foreigners in Korea. Much of the anti-American sentiments are riled up due to deplorable acts or even accidents on the part of U.S. soliders in Korea. Obviously, the fact that there are U.S. soldiers there at all is what drives much of the resentment. But I think it is greatly fueled by incidents of soldiers misbehaving and/or committing crimes.

The Foreign Ministry has asked that this incident doesn't stir up racial prejudice against Koreans or Korea. It should go without saying that the shooter's nationality had nothing to do with his actions. But I wonder if Korea would withhold racist judgments if a foreigner were to do somthing like this in Korea. I'm hoping that, if nothing else, this terrible incident will cause some Koreans to reconsider applying xenophobic generalizations to individual acts.

4 comments:

Eric said...

I agree with you completely. I hope US citizens avoid making harsh generalizations and that some Koreans, as you said, reexamine their xenophobic generalizations.

Will Buck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will Buck said...

Nicely said, Sean.

The tragedy at Virgina Tech has gotten to me more than I thought it would. I was particularly struck by something Jack Cafferty on CNN said Monday: "Why does it seem like the U.S. has a monopoly on these kinds of horrific events?" (or something to that effect)

The answers to that question are certainly up for debate, or even if it is true. I personally feel that it is, in that it's citizen-on-citizen violence, and was wondering for those who have spent considerable time in Korea, if the impression there of the U.S. is that it is a dangerous place.

I had a conversation with a Chinese woman in a Beijing Starbucks in 2005. She was suspicious of why I was in her country to begin, but then began asking about the safety of her child, who was apparently studying in the States. The woman was very worried because of how violent and dangerous she thought America was.

Maybe there she has a point. Maybe people are accustomed to the various ills in their societies: police brutality, government oppression, censorship, school shootings, and are only awakened to them in the aftermath of devastating tragedy.

I wonder, are foreigners who see our country as uniquely dangerous right? If so, why?

Erin Robinson said...

I think this might also add something interesting to the immigration debate that is occuring currently. I hope it doesn't because Sean is right, and there is no "racial" profile that can be used for these kinds of events. But it will be interesting to see if some kind of new immigration debate is touched off, extending beyond Latin America to Asia as well. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.